Friday, December 28

Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter (2010)

Adapted and Illustrated by Darwyn Cooke

A high-stakes master thief is betrayed by an associate at the conclusion of the heist he has just led them in accomplishing. Left for dead, then captured and imprisoned, he returns years later to cut a swath of death and destruction in his single-minded quest for revenge – and his rightful cut of the score.

Art by Darwyn Cooke
If that sounds familiar, perhaps you've seen the 1999 Mel Gibson movie, Payback. Or perhaps the 1967 Lee Marvin cult classic, Point Blank. In neither of those adaptations of The Hunter, the 1962 novel that launched a 24-book series, nor any other of the several films that were licensed out of other books from that series, did the protagonist go under his rightful name, however. It's a testament to the quality of the early drafts of Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel version that Donald Westlake, the author behind the Richard Stark pseudonym, was so impressed that he allowed it to become the first version outside his own prose to retain the character's one-word name. Although Westlake died before he could see Cooke's finished product, I am certain that he would be just as pleased and have no second thoughts. (Apparently the author's estate is not so protective of the “Parker” name, however, as there is currently in the works a movie version of a later novel, Flashfire, to be released in 2013 simply as Parker, starring Jason Statham.)

Frank Miller, Sin City:
That Yellow Bastard
This graphic novel, published as a hardcover with the dimensions and feel not of a comic book but rather of a regular novel, is indeed good stuff. Cooke's spare, somewhat retro style, here accompanied by a minimum of a single color as greyish-blue highlights in a manner much like Frank Miller's Sin City or the wonderful renditions of Shawn Martinbrough (penciller) and Steve Mitchell (inker) in the early-2000's run of Greg Rucka's Batman feature in Detective Comics, is perfect in conveying both the stark brutality and the proper early-1960s setting of The Hunter. It's raw, both in terms of violence and sex. Parker is not a hero by any stretch of the imagination. But he is a compelling character who sweeps the reader along with him and whom you want to succeed, if only because his opponents are just as if not more reprehensible than is he. It's easy to see how appropriate is the inclusion of Parker in Wikipedia's list of Characters in pulp fiction.

Shawn Martinbrough,
Detective Comics #745
Since the appearance of this first volume, two more have appeared – The Outfit and The Score; according to Wikipedia (which lists The Hunter as having appeared in July 2009, but I'm going with the title page imprint of 2010), Cooke has one more graphic-novel adaptation of a Parker novel in the pipeline. I definitely will be reading them all. And that will still leave me about twenty prose novels to track down and enjoy, as I doubtless will.

Cheers!, and Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment